TBILISI, DFWatch – A little known clause in Georgia’s election law may allow the authorities to block most foreign election observers, only allowing two observers from each organization. This includes the OSCE and the EU.
A newly established movement called League of Voters today held a meeting with foreign diplomats in Tbilisi Marriott hotel to discuss a vague article of the election code about international observers.
According to the Georgian election code, only two representatives from each international organization can be registered to observe the whole election process in the country. This means two observers for the whole country, and not two in each district.
Levan Chikvaidze, executive director of League of Voters, a movement aiming to improve the election system in Georgia, says that before, the Central Election Commission as a show of goodwill, allowed more than two representatives from each international organization to register, but this is not guaranteed by law. If the CEC doesn’t allow registering them this time too, only two observers from each international organizations will be allowed to monitor the election process.
If this is a correct interpretation of the law, it means that the OSCE, the most important election observer mission in former Soviet countries, will only be allowed to send two of their people, effectively rendering the mission impotent. The same goes for the European Union. Germany’s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle recently said during a visit to Georgia that he would work within the Union to get approval for a long term observer mission.
There are 3 500 election district and 73 regional commission. League of Voters says it’s impossible to distribute two observers over these commissions.
“We believe that the transparency of the elections is mostly based on the international observers,” Chikvaidze says.
League of Voters has sent a letter to the CEC, which answered that the number of international observers is defined by article 39 of the Georgian Election Code, which says that international observer organization conducts monitoring over elections through two representatives of the organization.
Lawyer Kakha Kakhishvili told diplomats at Thursday’s meeting that the law’s terms are vague. It doesn’t specify whether it means two observers in each district or two for all districts in the country; it just says elections in general.
Levan Chikvaidze says a U.S. organization doing monitoring had a misunderstanding, as it was not understandable to them why they have to prepare a large observation mission if they won’t be given the opportunity to present more than two representatives.
“So we consider it necessary to amend the election code of Georgia in this regards.”